Any expert is a proxy that will simplify the books and knowledge you don’t want to spend the time learning about. Theoretically, you could become the foremost expert on North Eastern moss, but we trust the sites on Google that break it down more effectively into what we need to know. Trust is involved for so many of our actions because we are limited individuals. There is only so much time in the day, and only so much effort and focus we can exert. When we find ourselves at a loss, we ask. Or rather, we should ask.
Even though we are social creatures that thrive and require social connections, we also have a deep desire to be independent. We want to be able to exist without our social matrix. “Surviving in the Wilderness” videos get so many views because we want to know that we could do it. We want to know that we aren’t dependent on others, that we have value in and of ourselves. The issue with that line of thought is that almost all of our values matter in relation to other people. We want to be individuals, almost in spite of our relation to a network, but that in itself creates a relationship. We value other people, even though we may claim that other’s opinions don’t matter.
So, what do we do? Give up any semblance of individuality and commit to the needs of the whole without complaint?
Absolutely not. We need other people, but that doesn’t destroy the value of the individual. Some differences, some values should not be thrown away just because the majority disagrees. It is good and important that we want to be independent. By interacting with the group and offering up the differences we have, we both gain value as an individual and support the whole. Sometimes we don’t realize how we have value, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Simply by living and experiencing things, we can offer different perspectives, different natural abilities, and even just being there to listen to others can do incredible good.
We can do great things as individuals but pretending like we don’t need other people will only make us miserable. So ask others when you don’t know what to do. If no one knows, then take your best guess and maybe you’ll be able to help someone else that falls into the same situation.
There is a conceptual delight to the idea of a robot. A continuously productive machine with no gross emotions or feelings or biases is a wonderful thing. However, strange as it is, we are not machines. We need constant recharging, for hours and hours at a time. Even at our height, we are still not as efficient and effective as machines. We are volatile, events can harm us without direct physical contact. Humans are just so problematic compared to machines!
And yet! Being human is such a unique experience because we are aware that we are. We might not be as productive as machines, but what basis is there to assume our productivity equates to our worth? In some settings, we may begin to feel like that’s the case. However, there is more to us than that! We are creative and adapative. We can think outside the box, and use our associations to connect ideas. We can make wonderful things like machines in the first place, and emotionally connect to other people! Even we aren’t sure ourselves how we can do all of these things. It is something special to be a human.
While we love to connect to other people, part of being a social creature means we become jealous at times. We begin to compare oursleves to other people, and it goes downhill very quickly! But like machines and humans, part of being distinct entities requires there to be differences between them. Because you are an individual, you are different from those around you. Because we are varied in style, shape, and character, there are going to be differences in what we are good at and what we struggle with! You are not a machine, and that’s a good thing because you can do so much more than you are programmed for! You are also a “you”, and that means you are also able to bring something beautifully distinct to everything you do.
It’s practically magical how you never seem to realize how prideful you are until you see other people with the same problem. You think you must absolutely, 100% be right! And then poof! You see how much you’ve been building yourself up when you could have been more respectful and ready to learn. It’s like stubbing your toe, except the thing that suffers isn’t an extremity but a core part of your self-esteem.
The fact is, as much as we like to think of ourselves as objective viewers of our lives, we aren’t. We have emotions and experiences that add filters of meaning upon what we see. The same situation could make two people react in vastly different ways! It’s our culture, our habits, our hobbies, our values: it’s us. When we are forced to take a step back, it hurts because it makes us question the rest of the experiences we had overlooked. We begin to doubt ourselves and can become entangled in a mess of emotions.
We need confidence in ourselves. We need to have that positivity bias that encourages us to take risks. We need to be able to do our own thing and be autonomous. Especially in American culture, that individualism is so critical to our way of life and the ways we tend to think. However! There’s a reason we stub our metaphorical toe. It’s a helpful reminder that we need to listen. It keeps us centered around that important detail of life: we aren’t always right. As horrible and embarrassing as it is, we mess up. We make mistake after mistake. However, what we can also do is work through that and use those mistakes to grow into better people. Shattered pride can hurt, but it will heal and hopefully can be remade to something less inflated. It’s something we all go through! And it’s something we can all learn from.